MARCH 29, 1949
NEW YORK, Monday—The reports in the newspapers during the last few days on the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace and the counter rally of the Americans for Intellectual Freedom seemed to me rather depressing.
I cannot understand why, in the first place, we had to exclude certain people from coming to this country for the so-called "peace" rally. Having accepted the fact that there were a number whom we could not exclude because they were official representatives of their governments and that we were going to permit the rally, I think it would have been better to overlook the fact that we could exclude anyone.
It was perfectly obvious from the list of sponsors that there were a number of people in the group who had to be considered Communists or near-Communists. There were others who were just interested in peace and not sure that the methods being used by others to achieve peace were the right ones.
These latter people, of course, have the right to express their opinions. But so have the Communists, and it seems to me they would not want to have people scheduled as speakers who were going to express another point of view. I do not know whether it would have been possible to force them to have more speakers who would have spoken out plainly as did Norman Cousins, at their opening dinner, and George S. Counts, at the panel discussion which he attended uninvited.
If, however, they had refused to have the opposition I think one could have publicized the refusal and set up the counter meeting and carefully refuted each point after it was made, arranging for the same amount of newspaper publicity and comment on the air as the first meeting had.
Picketing these meetings seemed very unfortunate. We believe in free speech in this country and in freedom of association, and some of the placards that were carried seemed to make very little sense. Some of the methods used were melodramatic but not really helpful in getting to the public a calm and unbiased review of the things that were actually being said.
In many ways I think the pro-Communist speakers have condemned their own cause and done far more harm to communism than any of the people who have spoken against them.
In much the same way, the publishing of Anna Louise Strong's story is a heavy blow against the communist cause. Her very insistence that the Kremlin really cannot be held responsible for her arrest and deportation, her bewilderment and her intense devotion of the Soviets make one realize more clearly how sinister is a system that can put real friends in jail and accuse them of espionage.
She blames the general hysteria on spies, but I wonder if that is not primarily an Eastern European hysteria.
I have come across plenty of antagonism here against American Communists and anyone who tried under cover to spread communistic ideas, but I don't find people looking under every bed for a spy. That seems to be exclusively a Russian or perhaps an Eastern European concern.
I wish we had treated the "peace" meeting more casually, not given it so much prominence, answered what needed to be answered, and sent people back to their various countries with a realization of what freedom means to us and with a conviction that we really are not afraid of facing their ideas and finding our own more worthwhile.